City responds to city wide backlog of faulty fire hydrants

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - New details about a fire hydrant that failed during a weekend house fire.

Tuesday, city hall weighed in on the hundreds of hydrants city wide that are not working.

41 Action News made the discovery after a homeowner blamed a faulty hydrant for the loss of everything he owned.
The city's water department said it has 500 hydrants across the city that are classified as "out of service".
KCMO City Councilwoman Jan Marcason responded, "We want to make sure every fire hydrant is operational, that's the plan but they're not right now."

The homeowner, Josh Priest, said firefighters lost precious time Saturday when the closest fire hydrant failed to provide the water they needed.

Priest said on Saturday in front of his charred house at 26th and Stark, "The fire chief said there was no more water."

Tuesday, the KCMO water department confirmed the hydrant in Priest's neighborhood  was not properly marked.

The water department's new director, Terry Leeds explained, "Looking back, there are different painted tops and that one should have had an orange top and it had a black top."

A black top tells a firefighter the hydrant has enough water pressure to fight a fire, orange hydrants are designed only to flush the system and not fight fires.
Firefighters had to search for water down the road on Saturday.
Tuesday, the water department revealed not all neighborhoods are created equally.

Josh's older, annexed neighborhood at 26th and Stark may be surprised to learn it is one of those areas the city says lacks proper water supply.

Leeds said, "It is underserved, as far as the distribution system.  2 inch , 4 inch lines do not protect for adequate fire protection service."

The water department said crews are about to repair and update the water main pipes to that area this summer.

More concern, however, to the east. The city's poorest 3rd district just recently dedicated $300,000 of its own public improvement funds to assist the water department in fixing hydrants 3rd district residents said went unrepaired too long.
Josh's tragedy has publically uncovered a host of problems with the water department.

The city pointed to an antiquated, paper based system, ineffective reporting systems between firefighters and the department, lack of customer service and a backlog of unrepaired hydrants that take too long to fix.

Marcason said, "It's run by municipal officials and probably less efficiently ... Archaic is a good word to use."

41 Action News asked Leeds: "Are you confident the hydrants across the city are marked properly?"
Leeds responded, "As confident as I can be."

Marcason added, "We just have so much to take care of .. and really we've neglected it for too many years."

The city also faces a backlog of repairs to aging water mains and valves. The EPA has also mandated the city begin a 25 year, $2.5 billion sewer system project.

A few months ago, city council members realized the water department's lack of efficiency and brought in KCP&L's former C.O.O. to overhaul the antiquated department.
Terry Leeds is the KCMO's new water services director.

He said he is trying to clean up the department's past mistakes.
Leeds hopes some of the new $9 average increase in customer's bills starting in May will speed repairs and help employees to mark hydrants accurately.

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